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home : opinions : opinions November 25, 2015

9/16/2013 6:02:00 AM
Editorial: Don't let them suffer in silence

Our veterans are a tough bunch. They've fought in wars known and unknown, facing enemies that have become more and more dangerous over time. We honor them in parades on special days, and numerous groups have long existed to take care of those who return in matters of employment and training.

One serious issue that has not received enough attention, both from officials and from the public, is that of suicide - and the numbers are startling.

In 2012, 22 veterans committed suicide each and every day, nearly one every hour, accounting for 20 percent of the nation's total self-inflicted deaths.

In the military, life is well-ordered and days, outside of combat zones at least, contain very little mystery, thanks to the discipline and structure of the armed services. After discharge, it's easy to see how someone who has lived in a system that dictates nearly all activity would find himself or herself out of sorts with the chaotic pace and apparent formlessness of American life.

Veterans who served in combat have experienced chaos of a far different, far more terrifying sort. And even with the structure of the military, even with the band of brothers that make up fighting units and watch each other's backs, the harsh inhumanity of war's reality - kill or be killed - leaves many haunted long after their service has ended.

Post-traumatic stress strikes civilians, too, but rarely in the same context lived by those who experience the horrors of war. Some don't sleep well, others can't fathom the subtleties of simple human interaction, and many turn to alcohol and drugs to ease the nameless, relentless pain.

Most believe themselves self-reliant and suffer in silence. And while most in time overcome this most difficult transition, some, nearly one every hour, choose to end the pain for good.

For most of our history, PTSD, once known as shell-shock, was swept out of the light. Now, as Northern Arizona VA Associate Director James Belmont said recently, "We have come far from the sink-or-swim mentality our veterans faced after World War II," and truly begun to recognize the symptoms leading to suicide. Caring people have created a network of solutions, of possibilities, in which veterans can find their way clear to live.

These efforts come far too late and none too soon. The men and women who have served us in the face of death deserve no less than our full attention upon returning home, no less than a true chance at life.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Article comment by: R J

Veterans are the pawns of a demented megalomaniac government. They come out of their war experiences with feelings of dread and hopelessness. They go into a conflict with the belief they are protecting our American freedoms.......they come out of it feeling shame and remorse for all the vile, inhumane acts they are forced to perform. They need help. They want to know why.

Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Article comment by: Old Sarg been there, done that

And why do we suffer 22 suicides a day? Because the agency responsible for preventing it does nothing. The Veteran is faced with two battles, the one with bullets and the other with VA employees. Very highly paid, dripping with benefits and they stand in the hallway and complain about their jobs (there's a morale problem, donchaknow). There are no improvements on the horizon, they have their gravy train, who cares if a Vet kills themselves. The only way to turn this around is privatize the medical side and roll benefits processing into Social Security. Another problem is they keep sending them back over and over. We're killing them. I've never seen kids with PTSD so bad. They're wrecked, and we're doing it. Wake up America, we'd better fight to get our nation back.

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Article comment by: Mr Maverick

We have become a country that is quick to send troops but not very good at taking care of them when they return. Prior to starting these wars people need to think what the cost of lives and money will be. It is estimated the Iraqi and Afghanistan Wars will cost the USA over two trillion dollars to take proper care of the wounded and disabled over the next 20 years. It is a fight to get any benefits and over one million claims are still waiting to be reviewed.

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Article comment by: 0.5% of Americans are active duty military

Over and over, someone it seems has been reassuring me with two notions that as I've grown older I've found will never be true. One so absurd it has become tragically funny, and that is that guns will offer me security and comfort, the other, more complex, and deeply personal, God only gives you what you can handle. The older I get, the more of life I've experienced, the more people I've known that God gave them more of there fair share.

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